I recently attended a meeting, locally, where a group of people were advocating for more BioBased Manufacturing in Maine (that’s making products from wood). I’ve been on that bandwagon for a while now, so anything I can do to help nudge the state in that direction, I am likely to do. It seems a shame to me that we have this incredible forest resource, but we have struggled to innovate our way to creating new uses for it.
Take heat for example. Heat is a big deal in Maine for a good 6 months of the year. We have enough energy in our forests to heat every building in the state many times over, yet we are still dependent on fossil-based heating oil, much of which has been imported from half way around the world. Wood can be harnessed for heat in multiple ways. It can be used in its raw form as firewood (and modern wood stoves are a far cry from their smoky and inefficient ancestors) or it can be converted to pellets or bricks, to be used in automated heating systems, or even liquid fuel that will burn in your existing boiler. I, for one, would like to see us find a way to break the grip that “outside oil” has on us and turn it around so that we are the ones utilizing and exporting “Maine-Made BioHeat” and bringing that wealth into this state rather than it leaving.
There’s also transportation fuel. Wood can be converted into a number of different transportation fuels. Fuels that will burn in the cars and trucks we drive today. This will definitely happen eventually, once the price of fossil fuel goes through the roof, but why wait? Why not start down that road now, while we still have reserves of fossil fuel that can be saved for critical uses.
And then there’s plastic. Yes, wood can be turned into a biodegradable replacement for plastic. Is it ideal in every situation? Probably not. Can it be manufactured as cheaply as our current non-biodegradable plastics? Not yet, but it could help make our wold a cleaner and safer place to live.
There are hundreds of other products that can be made from wood, and Maine is positioned to be a leader in the manufacture of these alternative products, …if we can only figure out ways to make it happen.